Reactions to the NFL Divisional Playoff Round in NFC


WOW!!  I don’t remember an NFL divisional playoff weekend like the one we just saw! It was amazing. Let’s take a look at each game in the NFC Conference:

Jan 12, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick (7) runs the ball past Green Bay Packers defensive end Mike Neal (96) during the second quarter of the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

San Francisco 49ers 45 – Green Bay Packers 31:

How would San Fran’s QB Colin Kaepernick do in his first playoff game?  His first drive was not good: it resulted in a pick six by the Packers to put the 49ers in an early 7-0 hole.  From there on out, Kaepernick was flawless.  He set an NFL record for rushing yards by a quarterback with 183, he scored two touchdowns on the ground, and he threw for 263 yards and two touchdowns to lead the 49ers to a 45-31 victory over the Packers.  What an incredible performance by Kaepernick.  This game really helps vindicate head coach Jim Harbaugh‘s decision to name Kaepernick the starter over Alex Smith.

The Packers defense had no answer for Kaepernick and the 49ers rushing attack.  They were fooled so many times.  Packers LB Clay Mathews had no idea on multiple plays whether or not Kaepernick had the ball or not.  Packers head coach Mike McCarthy made a comment earlier in the week that playing against Vikings quarterback Joe Webb would perhaps help them prepare for Kaepernick’s style of play.  Obviously it didn’t help that much.  The 49ers played with such a passion and determination Saturday night that it will be really difficult for anyone to stop the option attack that the 49ers run, especially if Kaepernick throws it as effectively as he did Saturday night.

Atlanta Falcons 30 – Seattle Seahawks 28:

Jan 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan (2) throws the ball against the Seattle Seahawks in the NFC divisional playoff game at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

If Baltimore-Denver was the game of the weekend, then Seattle-Atlanta was a very close second. Falcons QB Matt Ryan and Head Coach Mike Smith finally got their first playoff victory together, though it was not easy, especially in the fourth quarter.  The Falcons started out with a bang.  They were sharp and on target, jumping out to a 20-0 halftime lead.  The Seahawks left plenty of points out on the field in the first half.  They went for it on 4th and 1 and didn’t get it.  They ran out of time at the end of the first half to even get a field goal.  Multiple times in the first half they failed to take advantage of what the Falcons were giving them. The Seattle defense wasn’t that good either.

Things changed at halftime though.  The Seahawks drove right down the field and scored to make it a 20-7 game.  The Falcons answered with a touchdown of their own, so it was 27-7 entering the fourth quarter.  That is when things got crazy.  Seattle scored right away in the fourth quarter to close the gap 27-14. Falcons QB Ryan then made one of his classic playoff mistakes with a terrible interception he threw into double coverage. Seattle immediately drove down the field and scored again.  All of the momentum shifted to the Seahawks. The Falcons and their fans had to be on edge.  Everything had been going so good.  What happened?  The Falcons were choking just like they had in the other three playoff games in the Ryan/Smith era.

Jan 13, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez (88) celebrates a touchdown against wide receiver Harry Douglas (83) during the first quarter of the NFC divisional playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks at the Georgia Dome. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Atlanta’s choking didn’t stop, as the Seahawks scored a touchdown with thirty-one seconds left to take a 28-27 lead.  Everything the Falcons had worked for: Done; Finished; Over.  But Ryan and company did not panic. Ryan found Harry Douglas for a first down near midfield.  The next play, to TE Tony Gonzalez set up Matt Bryant for a game-winning field goal.  After Seattle took a timeout to ice Bryant (he practiced kicking a field goal after the timeout was called and missed), Bryant banged one through and the Falcon had surprisingly re-taken the lead 30-28.  That Falcons’ drive was very similar to the drive a couple of years ago against the Chicago Bears when Ryan completed two passes to set up a Bryant field goal.  This was almost de ja vu.  Yet, the Falcons left too much time. A squib kick failed miserably, giving the Seahawks a chance, but Russell Wilson‘s pass was intercepted by Julio Jones and that was it.  The Falcons won, sending the Seahawks packing.  It was not easy for the Falcons and they may be in big trouble with Kaepernick and the 49ers attack coming to town.  The Seahawks were able to gain yards in bunches in the second half.  The Falcons need to shore up their defense to stop that attack.